Please Enter Your Search Term Below:
 Websearch   Directory   Dictionary   FactBook 
  Wikipedia: Praetorian Guard

Wikipedia: Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Praetorian Guard (sometimes PrŠtorian Guard) (in Latin: praetoriani) comprised a special force of bodyguards used by Roman emperorss. Before them it was used by warlords, back at least to the Scipio family -- around 275 BC.

History

The term "Praetorian" came from the tent of the legate of a legion in the field - the praetorium. It was a habit of many Roman generals to choose from the ranks, a private force of soldiers to act as bodyguards of the tent or the person. They consisted of both infantry and cavalry. In time, this cohort came to be known as the cohors praetoria, and various notable figures possessed one, including Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius and Augustus Caesar (Octavianus). As Caesar discovered with the X Legion, a powerful unit more dangerous than its fellow legions was desirable in the field. When Augustus became the first ruler of the Empire in 27 B.C., he decided such a formation was useful not only in war but in politics. Thus, from the ranks of the legions throughout the provinces, Augustus, recruited the Praetorian Guard.

The group that was formed initially differed greatly from the later Guard, which would murder emperors. While Augustus understood the need to have a protector in the maelstrom of Rome, he was careful to uphold the Republican veneer of his regime. Thus he allowed only nine cohorts to be formed, each 500 to 1,000 men, and only three were kept on duty at any given time in the capital. A small number of detached cavalry units (turma) of 30 men each were also organized. While they patrolled inconspicuously, in the palace and major buildings, the others were stationed in the towns surrounding Rome; no threats were possible from these indiviual cohorts. This system was not radically changed with the arrival of two Praetorian prefects in 2 B.C., Q Ostorius Scapula and Salvius Aper, although organization and command were improved.

Augustus' death in 14 A.D., marked the end of Praetorian calm. Through the machinations of their ambitious prefect, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the Guard was brought from the Italian barracks into Rome itself. In 23 A.D. Sejanus convinced Tiberius to have the Castra Praetoria (the camp of the Pratorians) built just outside of Rome. One of these cohorts held the daily guard at the royal palace. Henceforth the entire Guard was at the disposal of the emperors, but the rulers were now equally at the mercy of the Praetorians. The reality of this was seen in 31 A.D. when Tiberius was forced to rely upon his own cohors praetoria against partitions of Sejanus. Though the Praetorian Guard proved faithful to the aging Tiberius, their potential political power had been made clear.

While campaigning, the Praetorians were the equal of any formation in the Roman Army. Seldom used in the early reigns, they were quite active by 69 A.D. They fought well at the first battle of Bedriacum for Otho. Under Domitian and Trajan, the guard took part in wars from Dacias to Mesopotamia, while with Marcus Aurelius, years were spent on the Danubian frontier. Throughout the 3rd century A.D., the Praetorians assisted the emperors in various cities.

Following the death of Sejanus, who was sacrificed for the Donativum (imperial gift) promised by Tiberius, the Guards began to play an increasingly ambitious and bloody game in the Empire. With the right amount of money, or at will they assassinated emperors, bullied their own prefects, or turned on the people of Rome. In 41 A.D. Caligula was killed by conspirators from the senatorial class and from the Guard. The Praetorians placed Claudius on the throne, daring the senate to oppose their decision.

While the Guard had the power to kill of emperors, it had no role in government administration, unlike the personnel of the palace, the Senate, and the bureaucracy. Often after an outrageous act of violence, revenge by the new ruler was forthcoming. In 193 A.D. Didius Julianus purchased the Empire from the Guard for a vast sum, after the Guard auctioned it off. Later that year Septimius Severus marched into Rome, and disbanded Praetorians and started a new formation from his own Pannonian Legions. Even Vespasian in 69 A.D., who relied upon the disgruntled cohorts dismissed by Vitellius, reduced their rank in number when ascending the throne. Unruly mobs in Rome fought often with the Praetorian in Maximinus' Reign in vicious street battles.

In 271 A.D. Aurelian sailed east to destroy the power of Palmyra with a force of legionary detachments, Praetorian cohorts, an other cavalry units.The Palmyrans were easily defeated. This lead to the orthodox view that Diocletian and his colleagues eevolved the sacer comitatus (the field escort of the emperors) which included field units that utilzied selection process, command structure, and modeled after the old Praetorian cohorts, but was not of uniform composition and was much larger than a Praetorian cohort.

Diocletian, in 284 A.D., reduced the status of the Praetorians; they were no longer to be part of palace life, as Diocletian lived in Nicomedia; some 60 miles from Constantinople in Asia Minor. A new corps, the Jovians and Herculians, replaced the Pratorians as the personal protectors of the emperors, a practice that remained intact with the tetrarchy. By the time Diocletian retired in 305 A.D., the Castra Praetoria seems to have housed only a minor garrison of Rome.

In 306 A.D., when Maxentius, son of the retired emperor Maximian, was passed over as a successor, the troops took matters into their own hands and elevated him to the position of emperor in Italy on October 28. When Constantine the Great, lauching an invasion of Italy in 312, forced a final confrontation at the Milvian Bridge, the Praetorian cohorts made up most of Maxentius' army. Later in Rome, the victorious Constantine abolished the Guard. The soldiers were sent out to various corners of the Empire , and the Castra Praetoria was demolished. For over 300 years they had served, and the destruction of the Praetorians was a grand gesture, inaugurating a new age of imperial history and ending the Praetorians.

The final act of the Praetorians in imperial history occurred when the Caesar Flavius Valerius Severus, following the orders of Galerius, attempted to disband them in 308, but they revolted, elevating Maxentius as their Emperor. Following his victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine the Great definitively disbanded the Praetorian Guard.

Relationships between emperors and their Guard

Relationships between various emperors and their Guard
Augustus27 B.C. - 14 A.D.created the Praetorian Guard
Tiberius14 - 37 A.D.allowed Sejanus to gain power as the Guard's prefect
Caligula37 - 41 A.Dmurdered by the Guard
Claudius41 - 54 A.D.Proclaimed emperor by the Guard
Nero54 - 68 A.D.deserted by the Guard
Galba68 - 69 A.Dmudered by the Guard
Otho69 A.Delevated by the Guard
Vitellius69 A.D.deposed by the Guard then killed
Vespasian69 - 79 A.D.reduced the size of the Guard after victory in 69 A.D.
Titus
Domition
Nerva
Hadrian
Commodus
Pertinax
Didius Julianus
Septimus Serverus
Caracalla
Macrinus
Elagabalus
Balbinus
Pupienus
Gordian III
Philip
Aurelian
Florian
Probus
Carus
Numerian
Diocletian
Maxentius
Constantine

Organization and Conditions of Service

Although the Praetorians have similarities they are unlike any of the other Legions of the Roman Empire. Its cohorts were larger, the pay and benefits were better, and its military abilities were reliable. They also received gifts of money called Donativum from the emperors. As conceived by Augustus, the Praetorian cohorts totaled around 9,000 men, recruited from the legions of the regular army or drawn from the most deserving youths in Etruria, Umbria, and Latium. Over time the pool of recruits expanded to Macedonia, the Spanish provinces and Illyricum. Vitellius formed a new Guard out of the German legions, while Septimus Severus did the same with the Pannonian legions. He also chose replacements for the units' ranks from throughout the Roman Empire.

Around the time of Augustus (c. 5 A.D.) each cohort of the Praetorians numbered 1,000 men, increasing to 1,500 a highwater mark. As with the normal legions, the body of troops actually ready for service was much smaller. Tacitus reports that the number of cohorts was increased to twelve from nine in 47 A.D. In 69 it was breifly increased to sixteen cohorts by Vitellius, but Vespasian quickly reduced it agin to nine. Finally in 101 A.D. their number was increased to once more to ten, resulting in a force of 5,000 troops, whose status was at least elite.

Guardsmen training was more intense than in the legions because of the amount of free time available, when a cohort was not posted or traveling with the emperor. The Guard followed the same lines as those elsewhere. Equipment and amror were also the same with one notable exception -- specially decorated breastplates, excellent for parades and state functions. Thus, each guardsmen possesed two suits of armor, one for Roman duty and one for the field.

The Praetorians received substantially higher amounts of pay than other Roman soldiers in any of the legions. They were paid on a system known as sesquiplex stipendum, or by pay-and-a-half. So if the legionaires received 225 denarii, the guards received 375. Domitian and Severus increased the stipendum (payment) to 1,500 denarii, distributed three times a year in January, May and September. On special occasions they recevied special donativum from the emperor. Upon retiring, a soldier of the Praetorians was granted 20,000 sesterces (5,000 denarii), a gift of land, and a Diplomata reading 'to the warrior who bravely and faithfully completed his service." Many chose to enter the Evocati, while others reenlisted in the hopes of gaining further promotion and other possible high positions in the Roman state.

Prefect of the Praetorian Guard

The special position of the Praetorians made them become a power in their own right in the Roman state, and their prefect, praefectus praetorio, soon became one of the more powerful men in this society. The emperors tried to flatter and control the praetorians, but they staged many coup d'Útats and contributed to a rapid rate of turnover in the imperial succession. The praetorians thus came to destabilize the Roman state, contrary to their purpose.

Rank

Ranks of the Praetorian Guard, in asending order
Milesregular soldier
ImmunesAfter five years these soldiers were allowed to serve in the Equite singulares (cavalry branch) or as Speculatores (special agents)
Principaleslegionary administrators
EvocatiAfter 16 years of service, retirement was possible but most soldiers chose to stay in this honorary unit.
Centurionssoldiers transferred to the Praetorian Guard after service in the legions, the Vigles or the Urban cohort
TribunesThese officers also from the legions and usually of the Equestrian class, commanded a cohort. Centruians could rarely be promoted to the Tribuneship
ProcuratorsA rank of the Equestrians
Prefectsavailable to the Vigiles and urban cohorts; the highest rank in the Praetorian Guard, head of the Praetorian Guard

Prefects

   
Prefects of the Praetorian Guard 2 B.C. - 312 A.D.
Name
Emperor Served
Publius Aper
Augustus
Quintus Ostoriius Scapula
Augustus
Valerius Ligur
Augustus
Lucius Strabo
Augustus, Tiberius
Lucius Sejanus
Tiberius
Marco
Tiberius, Caligula
M. Arrencinus Clemens
Caligula
Rufrius Pollio
Claudius
Cantonius Justus
Claudius
Rufius Crispinus
Claudius
Lusius Geta
Claudius
Barrus
Claudius, Nero
Faenius Rufus
Nero
Ofonius Tigellinus
Nero
Nymphidius Sabinus
Nero
Cornelius Laco
Galba
Plotius Firmus
Otho
Licinius Proculus
Otho
Publius Sabinus
Vitellius
Junius Priscus
Vitellius
Tiberius Julius Alexander
Vespasian
Arrius Varus
Vespasian
Arrecinus Clemens
Vespasian
Titus
Vespasian
Cornelius Fuscus
Domitian
Casperius Aelianus
Domitian
Norbanus Domitian
Petronius Secundus Domitian
Casperius Aelianus Nerva
Suburanus Trajan
Claudius Livianus Trajan
S. Sulpicius Similis Trajan
C. Septicius Clarus Hadrian
Marcius Turbo Hadrian
Gaius Maximus
Hadrian, Antoninus Pius
Tattius Maximus
Antoninus Pius
Fabius Cornelius
Antoninus Pius
Furius Victorinus
Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius
Macrinus Vindex
Marcus Aurelius
Bassaeus Rufus
Marcus Aurelius
Tarutenius Paternus
Marcus Aurelius, Commodus
Tigidius Perennis
Commodus
Cleander
Commodus
Lucius Julianus
Commodus
Aemilius Laetus
Commodus, Pertinax, Didius Julianus
Flavius Genialis
Didius Julianus
Tullius Crispinus
Didius Julianus
Veterius Macrinus
Septimius Severus
G. Fulvius Plautianus
Septimius Severus
Papinian
Septimius Severus, Caracalla
Marcus Opellius Macrinus
Caracalla
Ulpius Julianus
Macrinus
Julianus Nestor
Macrinus
Valerius Comazon Eutychchianus
Elagabalus
Antiochianus
Elagabalus
Ulpian
Severus Alexander
Iulius Paulus
Severus Alexander
P. Aelius Vitalianus
Maximinus
Philip the Arab
Gordian III
Gaius Julius Priscus
Philip
Aurelius Heraclianus
Gallienus
Florianus
Tacitus
Carus
Probus
Aper
Carus, Carinus, Numerian
Aristobulus
Numerian, Diocletian
Hannibalianus
Diocletian
Constantinus Chlorus
Diocletian
Asclepiodotus
Diocletian
Rufius Volusianus
Maxentius
Publius Cornelius Anullinus
Maxentius

Modern usage of the term

In common language, the phrase "praetorian guards" designates an exclusive group attached to powerful people, such as Adolf Hitler's SS troops. However, the term is used in non-military contexts: for example, a corporate officer or politician may have a small group of fanatical followers whom a journalist may describe as a "praetorian guard".

  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona